Classic Game Music for Halloween – Symphonies of Horror

Halloween is only a little over a week away, so let’s enjoy some more horror tunes. Continuing my four-part series on classic game music for Halloween, this week’s offerings focus on sinister symphonies and virtuoso villainy. A little classically-inspired doom and gloom is sure to add a tone of sophistication to your Halloween festivities.

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Castlevania Symphony of the Night (1997)

Developed as an action roleplaying game for consoles, Castlevania Symphony of the Night focuses on the story of Dracula’s son Alucard, and his struggle to destroy his father. This slow and hypnotic composition proceeds in a stately triple meter while creatures of the night weave their voices into the serenade.

Shadow Man (1999)

Remember when they used to say that if you played certain heavy metal records backwards, you’d hear Satanic messages? Well, this certainly isn’t heavy metal, and the message is more disturbing than outright Satanic. Who knew that Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata would be so creepy in reverse? The game is a horror-infused action-adventure mixing voodoo mysticism with apocalyptic dread.

Evil Dead: Hail to the King (2000)

Sometimes, only a strong dose of demonic Latin will make a Halloween music experience complete. This track delivers. Evil Dead: Hail to the King continues the survival horror adventures of Ash Williams, the star of the Evil Dead franchise in video games and on the silver screen.

Arcanum (2001)

There’s nothing like a slimy dungeon to invoke those feelings of horror that are so complimentary to the Halloween season. Fortunately, the Arcanum roleplaying game has multiple dungeons, some crawling with the undead. This track, written entirely for string quartet, captures the mood in a horrifically elegant way.

Classic Game Music for Halloween – Creeping Chills

Halloween stealthily approaches like a creature of the night, creeping through the shadows of our innocent October days… so let’s party! This is my second blog about music from classic games that can put us into the Halloween spirit, and this week I’m focusing on tracks that set an apprehensive mood. Through dark waves of sound, heavy chords and swirling sound design, these tracks from classic video games can create a perfectly appropriate atmosphere for your favorite haunted house.

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Nightmare Creatures (1997)

This survival horror game pitted an American doctor against the forces of Hell in 19th century London. The track below features a deranged, ungodly whispering set against deep waves of tonal horror.

Aliens Versus Predator (1999)

While this may be categorized as a sci-fi shooter, it features a horror-infused score that’s perfect for putting your Halloween guests on edge. They’ll hear clusters of despairing human voices, unsettling swells, metal objects that alternate between deep moans and huge impacts of doom, all punctuated by large “gotcha!” moments.

Resident Evil Code: Veronica (2000)

As the fourth game in the Resident Evil series, this game had players fighting mutated monsters on a prison island, all set to grim music such as the track below. At times this track may make you think of John Carpenter’s theme to the movie Halloween, while other moments take on a bit of gothic grandeur with the introduction of a cathedral organ.

Wild Arms 3 (2002)

This adventurous roleplaying game isn’t a particularly horrific experience, but it does have its moments, especially when a deceptively attractive demon of dreams is moving forward in her plan to destroy the world. The track below creates its unsettling atmosphere with a combination of pretty bells and dissonant clusters.

Classic Game Music for Halloween – Vintage Video Game Scares

The holiday season is encroaching, and you may have already been jarred by TV commercials for holiday layaway, but before we give our thanks and jingle our bells, there’s one very special day that we get to celebrate. Yes, it’s the time to practice our sinister laughter, friends – Halloween is coming!

For gamers, Halloween may seem like a natural extension of our passion. Gothic and grim elements are often plentiful in our favorite pastime. Plus, some of the more die-hard gamers already enjoy donning colorful costumes at conventions, so these folks need only open their closets to find a stylish Trick-or-Treat fashion statement. Games have provided plenty of macabre experiences, accompanied by suitably spooky music. So, to celebrate the approach of Halloween, I’ve decided to dedicate the month of October to creepy and classic game music. Every week I’ll post a handful of Halloween-appropriate tracks from some venerable video games. This week, I’ll be starting with music from the lo-fi era of game scores. The sound in these games was designed to be generated by the sound cards of early personal computers and the limited audio resources of game consoles such as the Nintendo 64.

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Alone in the Dark (1992)

Inspired by the stories of H.P. Lovecraft, this survival horror game trapped players inside a haunted mansion. Some of the music is surprisingly atmospheric, considering the limitations of the personal computers that were expected to render the chilling soundscapes of this nightmarish adventure.

Zombies Ate My Neighbors (1993)

The music of this tongue-in-cheek horror game clearly shows its age, having been created for the Super NES and the Sega Genesis. Amusingly, though, this bleep-and-bloop game score has its moment of reverential horror symbolism in the form of the Gregorian chant melody that appears during the track “Curse of the Tongue.”  The Dies Irae, translating as “The Day of Wrath,” has been woven into many movies, from The Shining to Sleeping with the Enemy. Here, the melody does its best to sound gloomy, using the cutesy sound palette it has available:

Super Mario 64 (1996)

Here’s a mind-bendingly creepy moment from, of all places, Super Mario 64. In this part of the game, Mario climbs a staircase that never ends, no matter how hard he tries to reach the top. The music for this gameplay sequence creates the impression of an ascending musical pattern that continues on its upward course forever. The technique is a musical illusion known as the Shepard Scale, in which the ascending notes progress in simultaneous octaves – the upper notes imperceptibly fade away, while the lower notes subtly fade up and take over. This process happens repeatedly, creating the illusion.

Donkey Kong 64 (1999)

A very creepy track from Donkey Kong 64, this music emulates the sound of the traditionally Halloween-associated xylophone and theremin, making for an early game music ditty that fulfills our Trick-or-Treat expectations.